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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

BNP chief Khaleda Zia will have to vacate her cantonment house within a month.

The deadline of 30 days stipulated by a High Court starts to count from the High Court's rejection Khaleda's petition. Her petition, essentially, challenged a government notice asking her to vacate the house.

Justices Nazmun Ara Sultana and Sheikh Hassan Arif on Wednesday, after a 22-day hearing, ruled that the government notice asking opposition chief Khaleda Zia to vacate her cantonment house is legal.

On Oct 6, the two-strong bench scheduled the verdict.

"The court has rejected the petition and ordered to vacate the house within 30 days," chief prosecutor Mahbubey Alam told journalists.

"The house was given illegally to Khaleda on June 13, 1981 through a so-called lease agreement. Following the verdict, the army has got the house back," the attorney general said.

Immediately after the verdict, pro-BNP lawyers took out a protest procession at the Supreme Court yard.

Barrister T H Khan, who argued along with Rafiq-ul-Haque and Moudud Ahmed for Khaleda, said, "We are aghast. Registered deeds cannot be annulled so summarily. We will talk to Khaleda Zia and decide on our appeal after we get an official copy of the verdict in our hands."

The eviction notices have been a key issue behind the opposition's boycotting the parliament.

The 2.72-acre plot was originally the official residence of the army's deputy chief of staff, a position held by Ziaur Rahman, who later became army chief and then military ruler.

Former military dictator H M Ershad, who later became president, allotted the house to Khaleda and her two sons following the murder of Ziaur Rahman, in a military coup on May 30 in 1981.

His widow Khaleda was also given a house in Gulshan in addition to the cantonment house, where the family had been living since the 1970s.

The Directorate of Military Lands and Cantonments handed a notice on Apr 20 last year asking the BNP chief to vacate her cantonment residence.

Khaleda filed the petition with the High Court challenging legality of the government notice asking her to leave the house within 15 days.

The government maintained its stand with two separate notices on May 7 and May 24.

On May 27 last year, the court stayed the notices for three months after the initial hearing.

The final hearing started on June 6 the same year. On Aug 23, the court asked the government to submit all files in relation to the lease of the cantonment house.

The government gave a legal notice to Khaleda for a number of anomalies regarding the allotment within the military zone.

The allegations and irregularities for which the notice was issued include 1) Khaleda has been carrying out political activities from the house – which goes against a condition of the allotment 2) One cannot get allotment of two government houses in the capital 3) A civilian cannot get a resident lease within a cantonment.

The government also alleged that unauthorised changes and extensions were made to the building violating the code of conduct in the military area.


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